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Tiger Satisfied with Performance on Sunday
It's pretty rare when Tiger Woods was as outwardly happy as he was Sunday after securing his second Players Championship title. The 37-year-old closed with a 2-under 70 to outlast one of golf's top fields to win the sport's richest prize of $1.71 million.
The win was the 78th of his storied career - placing Woods only four titles behind the all-time mark of Sam Snead's, and his fourth of this still-young season. Woods fortified his position atop both the World Golf Ranking and the year-long FedEx Cup points race.
After accepting the winner's check and hardware for his first Players Championship since 2001, an ebullient Woods met with reporters. Here's what he had to say.
MOERATOR: We'd like to welcome 2013 Players Championship winner and now a two time winner of the Players Championship, Tiger Woods. Tiger, you said you might have caused your mom a heart attack out there. Give us some reaction to the hard fought day you had out there.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, she's probably not too happy with me, especially after the tee shot at 14. But it was a tough battle. I mean, the golf course played tricky today. It was fast and difficult, and I hit it so good today, it was fun. I hit it high, low, left to right, right to left, whatever I wanted, except for that tee shot at 14. I didn't really miss a whole lot of shots. I pured a lot of putts, too. Could have been something pretty low today, just had a bunch of lip outs. But they were all good putts, and we were joking on the front nine, through nine, Joey said, you might want to hit a bad putt, maybe it might go in. So I hit one on 14. (Laughter.)
But I thought the tournament was at 15. I tugged a 9 iron left and had a decent lie to get it up and down and hit a pretty good shot to get to where I had a putt at it, and that putt was big because I figured I still was tied for the lead in the tournament, and if I played the last four holes at the time under par, I thought at worst I'd be in a playoff. I ended up actually winning the golf tournament just by playing the last four holes 1 under.
Q. Of the tournaments you've won where you really had to grind it out, how tough was this one, especially the last few holes? Did you work as hard on this one as some of the close major championships?
TIGER WOODS: You know, sometimes it's a little harder than others, and I think that's, one, based on how I'm playing, but also the nature of the golf course. This is a very tricky golf course with a lot of things that can go wrong coming down the stretch the last three holes. Anything can happen. As you saw at 15, I made a sweet save there, and got to 16 and I took a chance of going for it in two. I had 211 to the front and hit 7 iron out of there and tried to force a flier, and I got one and got in the bunker and got it up and down. 17, anything can happen with a little left to right wind. My ball got hammered by the wind and ended up short and that's not exactly an easy two putt.
And then 18 with the left to right wind and the tees were up a little bit, I could see some of the guys were you could hit it through the fairway pretty easily. We went with 5 wood today and hammered it down there and gave myself a chance.
Q. Was there a point on 18 you realized what was happening behind you?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I was telling the guys out there, there were a few well influenced people on 18 tee that were telling us what was going on behind us. So yeah, I knew.
Q. I wonder if you could talk about that theater at 16, 17, to be part of it. Obviously for the fans it's quite unique and there's so much going on, but for yourself how aware are you what's going on behind you and just that walk to the 17th tee, can you describe what that's like as a player?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I was on the green and I knew where Sergio was, and I was on 17 tee and I saw he had a putter in hand so he obviously knocked it on in two. So it was just waiting for the roar if he made the putt or just a nice applause if he made a two putt, and he obviously two putted. But that still didn't change my putt on 17. I had a difficult putt, and when you've got to play 15 feet of break and have it kind of slide down there, I thought I did well to get the speed right. I felt like I should throw it past the hole and let it come back in, and just a fraction too far, but it was a good putt.
We've seen amazing things happen there at 16 and 17, obviously Perksy chipping in and making putts, chipped in on 18, so many different things can happen, and I was hoping I would be on the good side of it, and I played those holes in 1 under par.
Q. Did anything peculiar happen on the tee shot on 12? I know you took a moment and were just reflecting. Was something going on in your mind at 12? Was there a moment where you really started saying I've got to do certain things?
TIGER WOODS: No, I was - more than anything on 12 I was kind of in between clubs, do I hit 5 wood or 3 iron down there, and I went with 3 iron, and because I went with 3 iron I knew I had to get on top of that ball and squeeze it down there a little bit. I just didn't like - I wanted to hit 5 wood but I didn't think I could get it down - I had to fit it. Why fit it when I could just hit a 3 iron down there but make sure I get committed to flighting it. Last time I tried to flight a 3 iron like that was on 10. I hit a good one, but I actually pulled it too a little bit. I didn't want to pull up that left side and hence I kind of stuck it in the ground a little bit to the right and ended up okay.
Q. So many times in your career where you've been in control of a tournament on the back nine on Sunday, and I know 14 hasn't been your best friend over the years, but how annoyed were you first of all at the dragon fly, and then secondly, that you hit a pop up type hook which is incredibly unusual for you to do?
TIGER WOODS: Well, the dragon fly part, that's fine. That happens. It's nature. But the pop up hook, that was a shot that I was hitting early on when I was working with Foles because of the plane where I come from to where Foles wanted to get me, I would occasionally hit that shot. When I hit it, I'm like, okay, here we go. You haven't hit a shot like this all week, so forget it. I've been playing great all day, so be it. Let's make a bogey and let's get this thing into the clubhouse. The next shot was probably the best shot I hit all week. It was a high inside fast ball and just turned on it and hit it up there just short of the green.
Q. If your 18 year old self from August of '94 would have played 36 holes match play over two days against your 37-year-old self, what do you think the match play score would be?
TIGER WOODS: I would win now.
Q. 9 & 8 or -
TIGER WOODS: I don't care, as long as I won. (Laughter.)
Q. Just how satisfying is this in light of since you've been sort of winning again, it's all come at very familiar places where you've had a lot of success. Obviously it's been a while since you've won here, different surroundings and all.
TIGER WOODS: Right. I hadn't played really well here since 2000, 2001. This golf course has been a little bit tricky over the years, and I'm not the only one who's struggled with it. It's a tough course. Fortunately I think this year I've been playing really well, and the last tournament I played in, I played really well. So coming here I was pretty confident in what I was doing. I was hitting the golf ball well. And the way I was playing at Augusta, I was shaping the golf ball both ways and controlling my trajectory, and I thought that was important coming into this week. And it ended up being one of the key factors because I missed the golf ball in all the right spots, where I had tough up and downs but at least they were easier. The only really tough up and down I had all week was at 15. Most of the time I missed it on the fat side where I had some room to work with.
Q. Four wins in May, I think the last time you did that was when you were talking about, when you won a few majors after that. How does this compare in your career, this little stretch that you're on now? Where are you putting it so far, and are you surprised?
TIGER WOODS: Am I surprised? No. I know a lot of people in this room thought I was done. But I'm not. (Smiling).
Q. So where are you putting it?
TIGER WOODS: I'm not looking at it that like. I'm just trying to get better, and I feel like I'm getting better as the year's going on, which is nice.
Q. We just had an announcement that Royal Melbourne is going to get the World Cup. I know you liked it there. Can we please expect you down there?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's a fantastic course, composite course that we play. It's one of the best in the world. I've loved playing there. I've played two Presidents Cups there now and I've enjoyed it, whether it's hot and with all the flies or it's cold and rainy. It's a great test. Golf courses don't have to be long to be tricky and difficult, and that's a classic course.
Q. So would you potentially go there for that event?
TIGER WOODS: I would like to go. I have no idea when you're talking about, but -
Q. November 21st.
TIGER WOODS: Thank you. (Smiling).
Q. That shot on 17, can you just walk us through how difficult that shot is? Obviously Sergio behind you putting it in the water there, just in that moment, tournament hanging in the balance?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's in off the left today, and I had wedge, so it was 130 to carry, to cover it, and then seven more. The thing is you can get baited into hitting it over there, and that's the hard part. You have a simple little wedge in your hand, but if you happen to stick it in the ground with a left to right wind, it's not coming back. I thought that the prudent play for me was to hit it in the center of the green, even left center, and try and hit kind of a pull cut. If I hit a pull cut, it's going to have a little bit of distance to it, and it might have the shape where it might land up on top and feed down. I wasn't - if I happened to hit it on top, so be it, it was just work out a two putt. But when I hit it, a little bit of gust came up, and it stalled out and it ended up catching the ridge and coming back.
Q. There was a lot made about the back and forth between Sergio and you. Obviously the focus is on winning the tournament, but is there any sort of extra satisfaction in there given the careers you guys have it?
TIGER WOODS: We just go out there and play. I had an opportunity to win the golf tournament when I was tied for the lead today, and I thought I handled the situation well and really played well today and when I really needed to, and that's something I'm excited about.
Q. Do you see any similarities with the game plan you employed here with the emphasis on positioning, keeping the driver mostly in the bag and what you would potentially use in a few weeks at Merion?
TIGER WOODS: You know, it's a great question. I've never played Merion. It sounds good in theory. (Laughter.) But I don't know. This week when you're hitting - it's so hot out there and the ball is flying. I'm hitting 3 wood over 300 yards. This 5 wood I was hitting most of the week was going 280 and I was carrying it easily 260. Those are big numbers. There's really no room to hit driver except for a few par 5s, and the wind had switched, came off the west over on 5, and it made no sense to hit driver there because even today I hit 5 wood off the tee because afraid of hitting 3 wood up over the hill and through the rough and into the bunker. Even that 5 wood was I think it was 310. We happened to get a dry, hot week where the ball was traveling. You've got to play the golf course for what it gives you. Certain years it's soft and it's wet, and I hit a lot of drivers. This is one of the weeks where I didn't.
Q. How confident are you with that style of play?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, whatever the golf course gives you. I think that's where - I come up with a game plan where I want to play the holes from, and that's - the two golf courses you mentioned, it's very difficult to be aggressive on. At the time Hoylake was so burnt out that the ball was traveling forever so you didn't really control the ball as it landed. It was just too hot, too fiery, and if you hit the ball into the rough there, even wedges - guys weren't holding the ball on the greens, and I thought the prudent play was even if I hit 8 iron I could spin the golf ball better than they could with wedges. This week was another example of guys we're all playing from the same spots. It's just how you get there. Some of the longer hitters are hitting I think Phil hit 4 iron off the tee on 18. That's just the nature of how it was playing this week.
Q. Considering what happened at Augusta, there was extensive commentary after you took your drop on 14. Can you walk us through the drop? Was there any debate about where you should drop it? Was there any wondering whether you were dropping it in the right spot?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I talked to Casey and the caddie, and we agreed that's where it crossed. Because I hit a pop up big high hook, so it started way right, and then it went way left. So it had a lot to room to it. We decided it crossed there, and I played it.
Q. Given what you went through with drops this year, was there any thought of consulting a rules official, although obviously if they're not there -
TIGER WOODS: If they're not there they can't see it, so there's really no point. The only guys who really know are Casey and his caddie, so that's who we rely on.
Q. What kind of shape were you trying to play on 14?
TIGER WOODS: I was trying to play a low draw and ended up hitting a high hook.
Q. Would you like to see this course with no rough at all?
TIGER WOODS: You know, we had it similar to that in '94 when I played here in the Amateur. There was very, very little. The balls up the right side - the balls up the left side on 1 were going into palmetto bushes, but those have been taken out. And on 10, the palmetto bushes were down the right hand side and the balls would land in the fairway and roll through into the palmetto bushes. That certainly was a lot more difficult when you have trouble like that, and I think that's - it would be fun to play it that way. I think that maybe Pete intended it to be played that way, hard, fast and really tricky.
Q. Would it be harder that way?
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely.
Q. Is it something you're going to talk to Tim about?
TIGER WOODS: Hey, Tim, what do you think? (Laughter.)
Q. You've obviously won a couple big tournaments when your dad was still with you. Can you talk about how it feels to win a big tournament on Mother's Day?
TIGER WOODS: It's fantastic. I haven't got a chance to talk to her yet. I will after the round. I talked to her this morning. I'm sure that she'll give me a ration of grief for the shot on 14 and what I did with her blood pressure, but I'm sure it's all good now, though.
Q. There's always a shot in a tournament that kind of defines the tournament. What do you think about your approach on 16? I know you were in the rough and you had options and the way the ball flight went, what was going through your mind?
TIGER WOODS: Well, when I was standing over the shot, I felt that, as I said, I had 11 front, and I just hit a 7 iron over on 8 that was 200 front, so I figured with a little jumper I could get there. Just as my last waggle, I was telling myself that I could still win the tournament if I hit this thing left. I can't win the tournament if I hit it right. I made sure that I steeped the angle a little bit more and gave it a little extra to the left to make sure that it started a little bit more left, and it worked out pretty good. But the shot that turned the tide was the putt on 15. To go double bogey bogey would have been huge. But to save a putt there and get some momentum going to the next three holes was big.
Q. It took a while to get the second one, but now you're tied with Freddie?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, he can't make fun of me anymore. It was a tough battle. I felt like I was in control of it after I birdied 12 and gave it right back at 14 with a double. It was game on, and anybody could win the golf tournament. I made a huge save at 15 and then a nice up and down at 16 and a big two putt at 17.
Q. How tough was it coming down the stretch knowing you needed to get a birdie, and were you trying to just if I can post one ahead of everybody, is that what you're looking for?
TIGER WOODS: I figured if I birdied 16 and parred in, I thought the worst I'd do is playoff. I just thought 17, not too many guys were going to go for that pin, especially with the wind off the left. You're afraid of kind of losing it, tailing off over there, and 18 is a birdie hole if you can get it in the fairway. But still, it's 18, and it's a left to right wind, it's in, and even though the tees were up a little bit, the pin was up, but it's still a very tough hole.
Q. First nine holes you gave yourself eight birdie chances, a lot of lips. How hard was it to keep your focus there?
TIGER WOODS: Well, Joey and I were talking, I said, maybe we need to mis hit a putt, maybe then they'll go in the hole. I hit pure putts and they just didn't go in. That's just the way it goes. Stick with it. I did it all during yesterday's round, and this morning I hit pure putts, as well. Just continue with it and they're going to go in, and I finally made one there at 12 and I made a huge one there at 15.
MODERATOR: Tiger, great week, congratulations. Thank you for your time.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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